“5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS”, with Alexandra Tinsman of the NEM Foundation

Listening to your audience, knowing your base — the importance of this core foundation can’t be overestimated. A lot of people have good ideas, but if there’s one thing I have learned throughout my career, it’s that a collaborative team working in tandem can get more done than any one person, no matter how motivated. Without listening to and acting on feedback from the community, you’re creating a lonely space rather than the inclusive environment you set out to build. This is how NEM’s large and active community has nurtured what we are aiming to accomplish in 2020.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Tinsman. NEM Foundation’s President, Alexandra “Alex” Tinsman is one of the 9% of female executives in the information technology space. One of the few democratically elected positions in the blockchain industry, Alex became head of the governing board in January 2019.

Alex brings two decades of software analytics, marketing, product development, and community development experience, with a focus on online gaming.

Prior to joining NEM in 2017, she worked on some of the world’s first digital tradable assets in Pokémon Online, Magic: The Gathering Online, League of Legends, and the Xbox Digital Marketplace. She holds a background in media consultancy, marketing and community, and tabletop game design. Alex lives in Austin, Texas.

Thank you for joining us Alex! Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I began my career in technology while on a quest to slay dragons and save princesses. I never went into battle alone. I always had a diverse group to help navigate the torrid landscape and share stories along the way. This is not the typical tech professional’s path but then again, this is what happens when you start your career out of university marketing fantasy games for Wizards of the Coast. My stomping grounds were building online communities and running global events for Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon.

All three of these blockbuster gaming brands have something in common. They are some of the world’s first online digital assets in entertainment. People all over the world pay money to own and collect digital items with perceived value. There’s a philosophical approach of game theory that is a proven recipe for building brands and in the past few years, I learned that game theory applies to all kinds of digital asset platforms — not just gaming.

In 2016, I became interested in learning more about blockchain and cryptocurrency communities. These industries are very similar to online gaming. For example, there are virtual marketplaces, reputation systems, online personas, global guilds, and virtual currency. In particular, I was impressed with a blockchain technology called NEM. NEM is an open source full-featured blockchain engine that can power both private and public networks with its unique built-in features. The plug-and-play nature of NEM’s tech was easy for me to understand. It was like Legos, but for blockchain. You don’t have to be a developer to use NEM. It is modular and has canned on-chain functionality that anyone can mix and match and build applications on.

I wanted to contribute to the NEM blockchain movement, so I began applying game theory to creating community content, including a YouTube series called Inside NEM. My content became popular (especially in Japan) and I was offered a full-time role working for the NEM Foundation leading marketing and communications strategy. The role of the Foundation is to support the adoption and development of the NEM blockchain technology by adding partner support, contributing code and tools to the platform, and providing education and training to grow the ecosystem. It’s just been an amazing journey the past few years, and I love being a part of it.

My passion for our community and product is apparent to all. At the end of 2018, I was nominated by the NEM community to be President of the NEM Foundation, which also made me one of the first female leaders of a top-twenty blockchain platform.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

I find distributed ledger technology (DLT) and blockchain inspiring — and while I didn’t create the NEM Foundation, I am committed to the movement. Blockchain creates a new model of trust and security that serves new markets. It strikes a fundamental chord with my own values. For me as a mom of three and a female leader in business, my “Aha Moment” came when I realized how disruptive this space could be for women and underserved markets across the globe that struggle with economic oppression and lack of opportunity. The only way I knew to contribute to this vision was to jump in, educate myself, and participate.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

My favorite quote that my career coach told me was, “You can’t drink the river.” Life comes at you fast and we have such a limited time on earth. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do everything possible but outcomes are better with focus. It’s important to spend the time we have focused on the things that matter and honestly, you don’t get ahead alone and those that do, don’t stay at the top very long. You need a tribe if you want to persevere through the many challenges thrown at you.

I’ve endured some crazy moments the past few years in the wild west of this industry, including inheriting a globally distributed non-profit organization that was in significant debt and lacked structure. The growing pains and restructure suffering were amplified by sensationalized headlines. The only way our organization survived? Practicing tough empathy and creating a culture of leadership. Our executive team worked together to define the kind of culture we wanted to nurture, and we held one another accountable along the way. We practiced a kaizen approach by implementing small meaningful changes. Those changes add up! For me personally, my career coach and mentors gave me perspective when it was a challenge to balance diverse cultural and communication styles.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We started at a low point and seeing where we are now is a testament to the power of teamwork. I know, I sound like one of those cheesy inspirational posters but I’m telling you… functional high-performing teams matter. We secured funding, we stabilized operations, and we are about to roll out Symbol From NEM, the biggest product launch in our Foundation’s history. We continue to succeed despite obstacles because we all put in the work to define the Foundation’s vision and mapped everything we do to Foundation-wide goals. I am proud of what we’ve built together.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I have a fully distributed team and do a lot of video meetings with folks at strange hours. Let’s just say I’m thankful I can turn off the video cam and that I also use a webcam cover. It’s a must-have for business. At some point, you will have regrets if you do not.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The core idea behind Symbol From NEM is “Powering Possibility.” Our vision is to be the trusted, secure value exchange platform for business. Just about every other high-performing blockchain has big issues with centralization. Symbol From NEM is truly a worthy successor to the title of next-generation business blockchain. That is because it has the same transparency and verifiability as Bitcoin but is able to handle any kind of business data and enterprise use at very high speed and low cost (which is where Bitcoin has limitations.)

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Setting boundaries and sticking to them.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m high EQ and an empathetic leader, but no amount of emotional intelligence can replace the impact of having a real mentor. It’s not possible to achieve the best of yourself without the help of others. People have Johari windows and need others they trust to help recognize self- sabotaging behaviors and opportunities for development.

I mentioned earlier I have a career coach, but I also have a tribe of mentors in speciality areas including NEM Foundation co-founder Jeff McDonald and Adele Rom, who is an organization development and performance strategist. I don’t know if he knows it but another mentor I have is one of our core developers named Jaguar. He’s been an important voice of reason over the years. I am also lucky enough to have a strong Council to provide guidance around business critical strategies for the Foundation.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

The value of NEM’s open source platform can be distilled down to connecting blockchain and business.This is why since 2014, you’ve seen NEM’s technology adopted by companies large and small throughout the world in just about every major industry vertical including fintech, gaming, identity, healthcare, supply chain, loyalty programs, and more. Some of our notable partners include the Bank of Lithuania and the United Tribal Partners (Crow Nation Tribe).

The NEM Foundation is separate from the technology platform and was established by the community for the community. We currently have a few hundred officially registered community members for 2019–2020 but the community as a whole is around 200,000+.

Building and nurturing a healthy community involves 1.) having a community strategy, 2.) understanding the lifecycle of our community both online and offline, and 3.) investing in our community. The community is at the heart of everything we do.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

The NEM Foundation monetization model has three main categories of revenue streams: consulting, strategic partnerships and owned products. Over the years, we’ve looked at various other monetization options and have run pilot programs that showed encouraging results. Our goal is to support Symbol From NEM to make it the most successful blockchain in the enterprise category. We see positive opportunities to achieve this and will continue expanding our line of owned products.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.

Listening to your audience, knowing your base — the importance of this core foundation can’t be overestimated. A lot of people have good ideas, but if there’s one thing I have learned throughout my career, it’s that a collaborative team working in tandem can get more done than any one person, no matter how motivated. Without listening to and acting on feedback from the community, you’re creating a lonely space rather than the inclusive environment you set out to build. This is how NEM’s large and active community has nurtured what we are aiming to accomplish in 2020.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I actually believe that Symbol From NEM is that movement. With our enterprise solution, we’ll be able to help companies solve problems across industries, implementing innovative solutions to age-old problems. NEM Foundation, a non-profit, is dedicated to educating and empowering people through technology, and Symbol is the next step.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or reach out on Telegram at @dyNEMite.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


“5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS”, with Alexandra Tinsman of the NEM… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.